The Obama campaign also revealed Tuesday (Aug. 28) that Sister Simone Campbell, the popular face of the recent “Nuns on the Bus” tour for social justice, will be addressing the Democrats in Charlotte, N.C., the night before Dolan’s appearance.
That is kind of a Catholic “two-fer” that threatens to upstage GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s Catholic outreach and highlights the importance of this swing vote in a deadlocked race.
“It was made clear to the Democratic Convention organizers, as it was to the Republicans, that the Cardinal was coming solely as a pastor, only to pray, not to endorse any party, platform, or candidate,” Dolan’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling, said in a statement released Tuesday by the Archdiocese of New York.
Zwilling added that Dolan had consulted Bishop Peter Jugis of the Diocese of Charlotte, who consented to Dolan’s role in the convention. By tradition, if a Catholic churchman takes part in a political convention, it is usually the local bishop. Dolan had to upend church protocol to appear, which is part of the reason the Romney campaign’s success in securing Dolan’s participation was notable, and why it drew so much criticism from the left.
Democratic officials stressed Tuesday that there was no deliberate balancing act in featuring both the cardinal and the nun.
“One was not done because of the other,” said a campaign aide. “We are delighted to have both of them at the convention.”
When Romney announced last week that Dolan would be delivering the closing prayer to the GOP convention it was seen as a major coup for the Republicans. Catholics make up nearly one-quarter of the electorate and they are concentrated in battleground states that are key to the candidates’ fortunes in November. Polls show they are evenly divided between Obama and Romney.
But Romney has found many allies in the hierarchy, especially as the bishops have grown increasingly critical of Obama. That sympathy with the GOP was especially evident after Romney picked Rep. Paul Ryan, a Catholic conservative who is friends with Dolan, as his running mate.
Dolan has also sharply criticized Obama over his policies on gay marriage and abortion rights, and he is one of dozens of Catholic leaders and groups suing the administration over the controversial mandate requiring Catholic hospitals and schools to provide birth control coverage to employees.
Conservative Catholics had spent the days since Romney’s announcement trumpeting Dolan’s appearance in Tampa and slamming Obama for allegedly “snubbing” America’s most prominent Catholic churchman.